It may sound silly, given that Ole Miss did just sign the second top-10 recruiting class in school history, but the end of yesterday's National Signing Day hooplah felt a bit like a disappointment for Ole Miss fans. With the Rebels inching towards the top spot in the recruiting rankings, two big defensive line prospects committed elsewhere and took with them a lot of Ole Miss' good vibes.
But the commitments of Jeffrey Simmons to Mississippi State and Johnathan Kongbo to Tennessee didn't exactly leave Ole Miss in a lurch, as the 2016 class does include two blue-chip defensive linemen who are already enrolled in classes. Defensive end Charles Wiley and defensive tackle Benito Jones committed to Ole Miss early and quietly stuck with their pledges, allowing the Rebels to add two players in the top-20 at their respective position who might have a chance to make an immediate impact in Oxford.
No. 20 strong-side DE, No. 269 overall
6'3, 234 pounds
A four-star prospect out of Georgia, Charles Wiley has tremendous power and athleticism and could grow into a true SEC-caliber starter on the strong side of the defensive line. What stands out most about Wiley is his strength. He's quite capable at bull rushing an opposing tackle into the backfield or plowing through a double team to chop down an opposing ball carrier. He also moves laterally fairly well and has a great read on opposing offenses, utilizing these skillsets to sniff out plays and pursue the football.
No. 6 DT, No. 24 overall
6'2, 285 pounds
So, take the mass of Peria Jerry and mix it with the quickness of Issac Gross, and you'll have something that approximates the unique and valuable skill set that Benito Jones brings. A consensus five-star prospect, Waynesboro, Mississippi's Benito Jones was considered to be one of the best defensive tackles in the 2016 recruiting class. He has a tremendous, explosive burst off of the line of scrimmage, particularly for someone his size. His disruptive impact at the high school level is similar to what Robert Nkemdiche's was at the college level in that, when playing against him, you've gotta take out big chunks of your playbook as to scheme against his ability to plug up the middle and occupy double teams. Like Wiley, Jones is an early enrollee, meaning that he has a head start on SEC-level strength and conditioning, and should be ready to contribute in the defensive line rotation right away.
With Greg Hardy, Jerrell Powe, Peria Jerry, and Robert Nkemdiche all earning all-conference or all-America honors at Ole Miss in recent memory, the Rebels have earned a bit of a reputation as a team that can recruit, develop, and utilize elite defensive line talent. With stars like Breeland Speaks, Marquis Haynes, and Fadol Brown returning for 2016, that trend should continue. Dave Wommack's defense won't rely on Benito Jones or Charles Wiley to play right away, but their tremendous talent means that they are more than likely to be given a shot. Yes, the Ole Miss coaches and fans expected more of a haul of defensive linemen on National Signing day, but if guys like Jones and Wiley are your consolation prizes, then you know you're in good shape.